5 things publishers look for in a book

Ever wondered what publishers really look for in a book?

Let’s say a budding writer, we shall call Mary, has finished writing her novel after labouring for eight months.

She now wants to see her work in print.

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Apart from going the traditional route, she also wants her book to be available as an ebook download on Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iBook store, Barnes and Noble etc.

She has, for two months, asked her writer friends whether self-publishing would be a better option…and what did her friends tell her?

‘Self-publishing won’t make you a nickel unless you have a name. A big name! You don’t even have an online presence.’

‘But I am on Facebook? I have 230 friends.’

‘So you’ll be selling to them I guess?’

‘Come on. I can build my name online if I want. I can do it.’

‘Let us know when you do because from what we hear it is not that easy to get people’s attention.’

Mary shelves her dream to become a self-published author for awhile after the conversation above.

She then starts feeding Google and other search engines with keywords like:

  1. What do book publishers need?
  2. What do publishers look for in a book?
  3. What do publishers expect authors to do before they accept their works?
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Here are some of the things a publisher expects from you, the writer.

1. A book that can withstand competition

They don’t want a book that will fail to capture a share of its target audience.

A book that loses market share to every new book that hits bookstores isn’t a book most publishers would want to invest in.

So the book must be good.

This can be achieved with better story telling (that grips the reader, keeping them turning the pages) or better research that is presented in a way that makes great sense to the readers.

2. A book that can sell

Most publishers love books that sell.

Publishing is, in most cases, a business, and therefore profit must be realized if the publisher is to continue doing business.

There are bills to be paid, royalties to be paid.

A book that can sell many copies is like gold to the publishers.

And they like books that have the potential to bring more money to them.

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Publishers also love books that have the potential to go viral – books that get people talking and buying.

If a book can remain popular for a long time, that’s a bonus.

3. A book that explores common issues in a different way

A book that brings in new ideas to the table will most likely get a yes from a publisher, that is, if the ideas are not ridiculous.

You may worry about your book not being accepted because the concepts you espouse are foreign to the publisher you are targeting.

Tell the story.

Don’t hold the information that may give your book an edge in the marketplace to yourself – unless you come to an agreement with your publisher to do away with certain chapters or sections in your book.

4. A book written by an author who can market his or her book

What a blessing if the author can get his book in front of readers, many readers?

If the author can drive sales to the roof, would a publisher frown? In most cases, no!

Publishers love authors who talk about their books cleverly. What do I mean when I say ‘cleverly’? It simply means talking about your book and either:

  • causing the listeners to talk about your book when they are with family and friends, or
  • getting the listeners to buy a copy or two.
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5. A book that is in line with their mission and vision

Unfortunately, even publishers sometimes don’t realize that the book they are rejecting today may be the book that could have driven them closer to their publishing goals.

People make mistakes.

People do regret at times.

Some learn a lesson.

Others keep on repeating the same mistakes.

So, it is a good idea to look at the kinds of books they have published.

Pay attention to the correspondence between you and them, because hidden among these could be golden nuggets that, at the end of the day, make the difference between another rejection letter and a bestseller (not that every book that is published becomes one).

Want to add something? Share your opinions in the comments.

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